|Lecture at the University
Written by Alexander Shulgin
|Saturday, 05 January 1991 00:00
Lecture at the University
Chapter 42 of PIHKAL — A Chemical Love Story
©1991 by Alexander and Ann Shulgin. Transform Press, Berkeley California. ISBN 0-9630096-0-5
For a goodly number of years I have been teaching a class in the Fall, at the University of California, in Berkeley. It is, officially, a toxicology course with both lecture and laboratory, dealing with the analysis of drugs in body fluids with an eye to the preparation of evidence for the courts of law. But some years ago I made a point of writing out all of my lectures, so that they could be read by my students before class, and the actual lecture time could be used in offering additional explanations, or answering questions.
If there were no questions, then the two-hour slot became a rich opportunity to explore any topic I wished to. The consistent underlying theme of these lectures was the excitement of science and of learning. I had been shocked, year after year, by the total distaste that my students had for organic chemistry, which was one of the prerequisites for my class. It apparently had been taught along the lines of, "For next Monday read from pages 134 to 198 in the text and we will have a quiz on the material." They memorized reactions and mechanisms, struggled through the exams, promptly forgot everything that had been memorized, and never took the second year course. They hated it.
So I would try to present chemistry as an art form, rather than as a science. Why are sugars usually white? Why don't food additives ever have smells? Make a guess as to how some interesting drug might change in the body? How would you explain chromatography to a jury with no scientific background?
And sometimes I would be on a particular kick, and the whole time would be devoted to a single subject that I felt deserved emphasis. Recently just such an occasion arose, and I presented the following lecture to my fifteen or so undergraduate students.
I know that I have been scheduled to use this time to build up a picture of the how's and where's of drug action in the brain. It has been listed as a lecture on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of centrally active compounds. But I am going to exercise one of the precious freedoms allowed me as a professor-I am going to change the topic, and make it a lecture on politics and government.
In fact, I am going to talk to you about our freedoms in general, and about the loss of certain of these freedoms under the shameful excuse of waging a war on drugs.
Our form of government is known as a constitutional republic. The federal structure was established by the signing of the Constitution, some ten years following our Declaration of Independence from England, and many of our present inalienable freedoms were explicitly guaranteed by the passage of the first ten amendments to our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, some four years later. These freedoms—of speech, of the press, and of the practice of religion, our protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the rights of anyone accused of a crime to know the nature of the accusation and to be judged by an impartial jury-these are the bedrock of our nation and are integral to our national way of life.
This Bill of Rights is continuously being challenged, largely through the enactment of laws by Congress which have been written without sufficient thought as to whether they might endanger or restrict basic freedoms. The function of the Supreme Court has always been to serve as a safeguard against the enforcement of laws which do not respect the Constitution, but it has become increasingly clear that we can no longer rely on this protection.
There are other freedoms that we retained from England, even when declaring our independence from her. England has never had a written constitution; rather, there has been a structure based largely on a few remarkable acts of reform such as the Magna Carta. From these collective acts came our concepts of habeas corpus (of what am I accused) and of trial by jury (by whom shall I be judged), both now embodied in the sixth amendment to the Constitution.
There are three most important freedoms that are part of this heritage which were never included in our Constitution, but which have nevertheless been a foundation of our national self-image. These are the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy, and freedom of inquiry. These are being rapidly eroded. Also, one hears more and more voices declaring that the relinquishing of these traditional rights is of little importance, as long as the national purpose is thereby achieved. The stated national purpose, at the moment, is the winning of the so-called War on Drugs. In the future, it may take the form of a war against some other threat to our national security—that phrase has worked before, and it can be counted on to work again—and the restoration of the lost rights and freedoms will simply not take place; at least, not in our time, nor in the time of our children or grandchildren.
We must act by ourselves—those of us who are aware of what is happening—either as individuals or collectively, to demand restoration of what has been taken away, and to prevent further losses.
Laws are born as concepts, but must be recorded as the written word when finally put into effect. And the exact interpretation of some of those words depends to a considerable extent upon current popular usage and understanding of their meanings. Since there cannot be complete consensus as to some definitions, there will remain a certain degree of ambiguity. I will examine a few examples of recent shifts in the manner in which such ambiguities are being handled, if not exactly resolved.
Consider the basis for the determination of innocence or guilt of a person who, as a potential defendant, has fallen under official scrutiny because of some accusation. In the past, the accusation had to be stated as a formal complaint, an arrest had to be made, and the task of providing evidence to support the charge was the province of the plaintiff, usually the people.
In a case where the crime is a felony (one which can be punished by a stay in a Federal prison), guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Doubts are obviously challenges to presented evidence, but for heaven's sake, what is meant by "reasonable?" It has evolved in legal practice that what this means is that a jury unanimously agrees that no doubt remains in their minds as to an accused person's guilt. This is the criterion that must be met to convict someone of such a crime.
However, in the current madness involving drugs and violation of drug laws, it is no longer necessary to convene a jury or—for that matter—to even bring a charge, in order to hurt and punish someone suspected of having been involved in drug-related activity. Only the thinnest of evidence, far short in quantity or quality of what would be necessary to obtain a verdict of "guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt" in a courtroom is now regularly used to "get" the suspected wrongdoer.
If you are a person in authority, you now don't have to confront the suspected wrongdoer; you confront his possessions, instead. Accuse his bank account of being the result of illegal activity, and seize it. Accuse his truck of having transported illegal drugs, and confiscate it. Accuse his house of having been bought with cocaine dollars, and take it from him. This is a move from criminal procedures to civil procedures. Such a person, invested with the power of the law, can decide that your car, your boat, your lower twenty acres of pasture land, have been associated with the commission of a drug-related crime. He can and will seize this car (boat, land), invoking the mechanisms of civil forfeiture, and you can't do a thing about it. By association with a crime, it is meant that the seized item was used in the commission of a criminal act, or that it was obtained as the result of a criminal act.
All of the above acts on the part of the authorities are possible without any jury findings whatsoever; in fact, without a trial of any kind having been held.
Our protection against civil forfeiture was also part of our British heritage of common law, and it had been steadfastly respected here in the United States since the time of the founding fathers. But it was dissolved in 1978 by Congress, with the passage of the Psychotropic Substances Act. That law must be withdrawn.
These acts of confiscation follow the criterion of "a preponderance of evidence."
Consider that phrase, "preponderance of evidence." The first thought that comes to mind is that the word, "preponderance," suggests an excess or a superiority of evidence. That is what the dictionary says, but that is not its common usage in the courts. In legal usage, a relationship (say, between your car and illegal drugs) is established as being valid by a preponderance of evidence if it is deemed more likely, on the basis of the available evidence, to be valid than not valid. In other words, the connection is at least 51% valid. The decision that no additional evidence need be sought, can be made by one person, by one judge, even by one single policeman. Thus, the quality of proof can be miniscule.
Keep in mind that the obtaining of additional information will sometimes show a presumed fact to be fiction; additional evidence might well establish innocence.
If you are reentering the country from abroad and the stub of a marijuana joint is found in your coat pocket, the immigration authorities can seize your passport. If I, as a person with sufficient authority, discover that you have a $23,000 savings account in the local Wells Fargo Bank, and I think the money came from drug transactions, I can and will seize this money. I no longer have to file a criminal charge or even a criminal complaint, and I certainly don't have to wait until you are convicted of an unlawful act in a court of law. I merely have to state that, in my opinion, there is a preponderance of evidence that you have been naughty.
The frightening extension of this is that someone who feels that you are doing things he doesn't approve of, can effectively take from you your ability to travel abroad, or can seize the assets that might have allowed you to establish your innocence with the help of good legal counsel, if and when charges against you are finally brought.
Very recently, the courts have decided that, after a conviction of a drug-related crime (using the "beyond reasonable doubt" criterion), the sentencing phase—which must follow the sentencing guideline standards—can be made more severe with the presentation of additional facts that need only meet the "preponderance of evidence" requirement.
As an example of how these distinctions can be blurred, consider a person who was arrested with a given quantity of ephedrine in his bedroom (ephedrine is a listed precursor to methamphetamine, but not illegal to possess). He might be charged with the intent to manufacture the drug, based on the possession of a precursor, and these days he will probably be found guilty. But, in the invocation of the sentencing guidelines, the quantity of the (legal) precursor that was under the bed can be used for determining the severity of his sentence.
Next, consider the fact that, in this country, there has been a longstanding prohibition of any involvement of the military forces in civil law enforcement (the Posse Comitatus statute) unless specifically authorized by the Constitution or by Congress. This, too, Congress changed with the 1981 passage of the Department of Defense Authorization Act. This specified in detail the nature of assistance and support that the military will now provide civilian law enforcement personnel involved in the war against illegal drugs.
In 1982 the military provided its initial help in the President's Task Force, in South Florida, with aviation and radar surveillance, and logistic and vessel support. From then on up to the present, with the phasing out of communism as a military target, the drug war has received continuously increasing military attention, as an acceptable justification for continued funding by Congress. The Pentagon has now been given the lead responsibility to serve as the intelligence and communications hub linking the anti-drug efforts of all U.S. agencies. This does not sit well with competing agencies such as the DEA, FBI and CIA, each of which has its own intelligence structure. Recent military involvement with the local government police against the well armed guerrilla groups in central Peru may be laying the foundation for an actual shooting war. And recently, the National Guard was directed to make their personnel available as customs inspectors, to swell the manpower at ports of entry.
The IRS, too, got into the act in 1982. Tax information is now available to law-enforcement agencies, on request, to facilitate their prosecution of drug-related criminal cases.
Now, consider the term, "a reasonable suspicion." This is a still more nebulous measure of guilt. Yet it is one that has been used in the drug area with appalling effectiveness. A Coast Guard boat has always been able to come up to your sailing boat to look for a violation of safety rules, but now the skipper of the Coast Guard vessel can, by simply stating that something looks odd to him and he has a reasonable suspicion that there might be drugs aboard, search your boat for drugs. What if they find nothing? They may still seize your boat, secure it for hours or days, remove chunks of it as they choose, until they either succeed in discovering something illegal, or give up in their search.
All that is needed is a reasonable suspicion.
Let us turn our attention to the phrase, "in good faith." We are getting further yet from hard evidence, and much closer to an undocumentable whim. Here anything goes, because to prove that a man (or woman) of authority acted in bad faith you must show that he or she acted recklessly, or lied. And that is pretty heavy duty proving. "I smelled methyl amine, and this has always meant to me a methamphetamine lab, and I got a warrant based on this statement. So it turned out to be an LSD lab and there was no methyl amine present. That's okay, since I acted in good faith." The warrant stands.
"My cannabis-trained dog told me 'there is pot in there.' It turned out that there were psilocybin-containing mushrooms, yes, but no marijuana. That's all right, because I acted in good faith, on the basis of my dog's response." The warrant stands.
An extension of this is the use of profiles, and the stopping and searching of people who are judged-again in good faith-to meet the composite picture of a person who is involved in drugs. The exact make-up of a profile is kept secret by the authorities, but in airports it involves such factors as the color of the skin, being in a hurry, having bought a one-way ticket, and having bought it with cash. If the profile is that of a courier, he can be detained, questioned, and searched as intimately as is wanted by the person in authority. If the profile is one of a swallower (one who swallows pouches of drug, to be recovered later) he can also be X-rayed without his consent and, if desired, held until the body contents are expelled naturally.
On the highways, the profile includes not only the driver's appearance, but the quality and make of his car and, believe it or not, the extent of his adherence to the local speed limits (so as not to attract attention). "He had a Florida license plate, and an expensive-looking car, and was traveling at exactly the speed limit. In my opinion, he fit the profile of a drug courier. I pulled him over and found almost $5000 dollars in cash in his glove compartment. This money showed a detectable presence of cocaine. I seized the money, but I did not charge him with any crime."
The seizure stands, because it was done in good faith, and it can be argued that cocaine on the money suggested that some drug-related criminal act had been committed.
However, government forensic chemists have demonstrated that randomly selected samples of paper money in the United States are presently contaminated with a detectable quantity of cocaine. We have instruments now that are so sensitive, they can potentially document a trace of cocaine on any piece of paper money of any denomination, in anyone's wallet.
Even though the Supreme Court last year endorsed the use of profiles with airline passengers, I still feel that this form of interception and interrogation can too easily be abused by the authorities, and it is neither needed nor should it be wanted in this country.
Yet further down this graded scale of decreasing quality of proof of guilt, there is a level where no guilt need even be implied by a person in authority against an individual. This is a rapidly expanding area of drug-related police-state activity that simply denies the person any presumption of innocence, and as he is no longer presumed to be innocent he is, by default, guilty. It rests with the accused to prove that he is not committing a felony. I am speaking of the random urine test.
What follows is a pretty harsh statement, but I mean it with total sincerity, from my heart:
There is no justification, at any time, at any place, in my country, for a urine test to be made on any individual, unless there is a reason stated for supposing that there has been a crime committed.
Let me state that again, in different words. To demand that a person pee in a cup whenever you wish him to, without a documented reason to suspect that he has been using an illegal drug, is intolerable in our republic. You are saying to him, "I wonder if you are not behaving in a way that I approve of. Convince me that you indeed are."
I don't care if the man is the pilot of Air Force One with the President on board, or the trigger man on a nuclear submarine with 24 Trident 11 D5 missiles at his disposal; it is unthinkable that there could ever be a urine test demanded of a person, unless there were reason to suspect him of being impaired. Yes, it is possible that we might lose a plane here, or a skirmish there, but such would be a minor price for us to pay for having a nation that respects the privacy of the individual and the presumption of his innocence.
The pilot/trigger man could be in a bad state of mind for many reasons (argument with a lover, burnt toast for breakfast), so our efforts must be directed to an evaluation of his behavior, his capabilities, and the intactness of his skills; there can be testing of his reflexes and coordination, in order to give evidence of impairment. If he is not considered completely competent to do his job, then—and only then—can a search into his urine be justified.
In any case, a blind search for drugs in a pilot's urine can provide only miniscule protection against aberrant behavior, since he will fly his plane today, and the urine test results won't be available until next week. There is no protection provided under these conditions.
I believe that a major reason for the wide promotion of urine testing is that, as a new, rapidly growing industry, it is an extraordinary moneymaker.
There are other actions of the authorities that illustrate this "assume them guilty and let them prove otherwise" attitude. Last year the DEA contacted all the advertisers in the counter-culture magazine High Times who were offering hydroponic horticultural supplies for sale. Their customer lists were confiscated, and all those who had made purchases of any kind were visited by representatives of the DEA, on the assumption that they were growing marijuana. After a number of innocent orchid growers had been raided, the authorities' enthusiasm died down. But the heavyhandedness of this undertaking does present a frightening picture of our law enforcement authorities in action.
As a way of exacting revenge at the legislative level, and also proving to the electorate that each and every congressman is doing everything necessary to win the war on drugs, there is a continuous demand for increasingly harsh penalties associated with drug-related convictions.
There have now been established inflexible prison terms and fine schedules that must be invoked for doing such-and-such with specifically designated quantities of certain illegal drugs. Your minimum time in prison is predicated on how much drug is involved, whether you have some special skills, whether you have been arrested before, and whether there was a gun involved. Here is a very important thing to remember. If there is any detectable amount of an illegal drug present in a seized mess, the entire weight of the mess will be considered as being the weight of the drug. If you are a boat captain, or a lawyer, or have some advanced education, you have a special skill, and you can be given an increased penalty. You might have a gun in a drawer in your bedroom at home, nowhere near the scene of the alleged crime. These particulars can all contribute to an increased and inflexible minimum sentence in prison, with times ranging from months to years to life, and with penalties climbing up there into the millions of dollars.
If you are a major drug dealer (whatever that means), under certain of the above circumstances, several laws that are now being proposed can demand that you receive a death sentence. A recently proposed law, just passed by the Senate, says that all you have to do is deal in such-and-such a quantity of a given drug, and that quantity alone will qualify you as a "major" dealer. And if you are found guilty, you will be executed. Capital punishment as a mandatory price to pay for possession of more than XYZ grams of dope. Where in the world, but here in the United States, and in Iran, and maybe in Malaysia? The unauthorized possession of an atomic bomb, by the way, is worth a maximum of 12 years.
I am confident that this bill presently being prepared for introduction into Congress (by Senator Gramm and Representative Gingrich) will never be signed into law, but the very fact that it is being seriously proposed is chilling. It introduces a whole new generation of penalties related to drug offenses (in addition to the mandatory execution of a person possessing more than an arbitrarily specified amount). These penalties include the denial of early release from prison until at least five years has been served; it demands that the state be required to conduct urine tests on anyone arrested, jailed, released or paroled (as a condition of the state continuing to receive Federal funds); it mandates that anyone convicted of use or possession of a drug will have to pay the cost of his trial and will also be fined 10% of his annual income; it says that there will be explicit permission given to states, counties, cities, school systems and private entities to engage in periodic and random drug testing.
A much more subtle and insidious form of freedom loss can be seen in our schools. There is de facto censorship being implemented within the colleges and universities by the Government, in the way it funds research and thus controls its direction. There is an outright propaganda campaign being presented through the informational media, and there is no challenge being brought by those who know the facts and should be insisting on adherence to truth. Let me touch on these one at a time, as each of them is directed at a different population target.
In the public schools, the efforts are being directed at the student. The message is, "Just Say No." There is no effort to inform, to educate, to provide the complex body of information that will allow the exercise of judgment. Rather, there is given the simple message that drugs kill. This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, and the egg is suddenly fried. Your sweet, virginal daughter was killed because she didn't learn about drugs. She should have learned to, "Just Say No." None of this can be called education. It is an effort to influence behavior patterns by repeating the same message over and over again. It is propaganda.
All kinds of drugs are deeply, permanently, infused into our culture, into our way of life. Their values and their risks must be taught to our children, and this teaching must be done with honesty and integrity.
And what is the status of research in the medical schools, and the universities, and the industrial laboratories across the nation? I can assure you that since psychedelic drugs are not officially acknowledged as a valid area for human research, there is no money being made available in any university or medical school for the exploration and study of their actions and effects in humans.
It is a fact of life that all research today, at the academic level, is supported almost exclusively by federal funds, and if a grant application does not meet the wishes or needs of the granting agency, the research will remain unfunded, thus it will not be done. In the controls which have been put into place over the pharmaceutical industries, there is another effective mechanism of prohibition of inquiry. Research on drugs can only be approved for eventual medical use if the drugs involved have accepted medical utility. And there is an official statement that there are no drugs, not one single drug, in the fascinating area of the psychedelics, that has an accepted medical use. They are all, you understand, Schedule I things, and-by definition-neither they, nor any of their analogues, have any medical utility.
As for the messages being pushed in the media? All too often, a lurid story is presented, and a later retraction is ignored. A couple of examples can illustrate this.
Consider the phrases, "Even the first time can kill," and "Even pure material can kill," as applied to cocaine use. Both were promoted as statements of fact, as an outgrowth of the tragic death of a sports figure named Roger Bias, who died from an overdose of cocaine. This happened at a critical time, just weeks before the biannual drug bill was to be voted on.
According to the newspapers, the autopsy report stated that the young man was a first time user, and that he had used pure cocaine. This is patent nonsense. Neither the purity of a drug, nor the frequency of its use in the past, can be gleaned from an analysis of the body's tissues after death. When the final autopsy report was released, it was published in the journal of the American Medical Association, and it seemed apparent to the scientists involved that Mr. Bias had been given a large quantity of cocaine by mouth (in a soft drink, perhaps, as there was no alcohol in him) and the suggestion was advanced that it might not have been self-inflicted. Translated, that means there was a possibility that he had been murdered.
This latter view was not advertised, and the two catchy phrases are still used for their "educational" value. Even the first time can kill. Even pure stuff can kill.
The anti-drug bill, needless to say, passed by an impressive margin.
Then, there was a train crash outside the city of Baltimore, in early 1987, that killed 16 people and injured 170 others. The newspapers trumpeted the discovery that the engineer responsible for the accident was found to have tested positive for the presence of marijuana in his body. This has been one of the major driving forces in focusing the public's attention on the need for urine testing as a necessary aspect of public safety, especially in the transportation area.
Six months later, a review of the evidence in this case resulted in the appearance of a report which showed that the supervisor of the testing laboratory which had presented the marijuana findings (the FAA lab in Oklahoma City) had been fabricating drug test results for months. Results were being reported from tests that had never been performed, because there had been no one in the laboratory who knew how to run the sophisticated instruments.
When an effort was made to challenge the specific findings in the case of this engineer, the original computer data had apparently been lost. And there was none of the original blood sample left for a re-analysis. It will never be known if that engineer had indeed been impaired by marijuana, but political and emotional capital is still being made from the original story.
The constant repetition by the press of the very term, "Drug War," has an insidious influence on public opinion. It evokes an image of our side, as opposed to their side, and the existence of a struggle for victory. Not to be victorious is not to survive as a nation, we keep hearing. There is a continuing message being advanced, that most of our nation's troubles—poverty, increasing unemployment, homelessness, our monstrous crime statistics, rising infant mortality and health problems, even dangers to our national security involving terrorism and foreign agents—are the direct results of illegal drug use, and all of these problems would neatly disappear if we would simply find an effective solution to this one terrible scourge.
Do you remember hearing the word, Krystalnacht, from the history of the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, in the late 1930's? This was the night of broken crystal, when there was a sweep of the state-empowered police and young Nazis through the Jewish sections of the German cities, when every pane of glass that was in any way related to the Jewish culture—be it the window of a store, a synagogue, or a private home—was shattered. "If we rid ourselves of the scum known as Jews," the authorities said, "We will have solved the social problems of the nation."
I see a comparable move here, with merely a few changes in the words. "If we rid ourselves of the drug scum of our society, if we deprive them of their homes, their property, their crack houses, we will have solved the social troubles of the nation."
In Germany the Jewish population was attacked and beaten, some of them to death, in a successful effort to focus all frustrations and resentments on one race of people as the cause of the nation's difficulties. It forged a national mood of unity and single-mindedness, and it allowed the formation of a viciously powerful fascist state. The persecution of the Jews, needless to say, failed to solve the social problems of Germany.
In our present-day America, the drug-using population is being used as the scapegoat in a similar way, and I fear that the end point might well be a similar state of national consensus, without our traditional freedoms and safeguards of individual rights, and still lacking resolution of our serious social troubles.
How severe is the illegal drug problem, really? If you go down through the generalized statistics, and search out the hard facts, it is not very large. From the point of view of public health, it is vanishingly small.
Just the two major legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, are together directly responsible for over 500,000 deaths a year in this country. Deaths associated with prescription drugs are an additional 100,000 a year. The combined deaths associated with all the illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and PCP, may increase this total by another 5,000. In other words, if all illegal drug use were to be curtailed by some stroke of a magic wand, the drug-related deaths in the country would decrease by 1 percent. The remaining 99% remain just as dead, but dead by legal, and thus socially acceptable means.
What about the highly touted $60 billion cost to business resulting from lost productivity in the work place? This number came from a single study which contained a number of assumptions that the National Institute of Drug Abuse admits were not valid. In this study done by Research Triangle Park, nearly 4000 households were surveyed, and the average incomes were correlated with the admission that someone who lived there had used marijuana regularly. These families had a lower income, and that decreased monthly pay-check was stated to be due to the fact that there had been marijuana use. When this was extrapolated to the population as a whole, the calculations gave a figure of $28 billion. Then there were added the costs of drug-related crime, of health problems and accidents, and the number swelled to $47 billion. Adjustment for inflation and population increase increased it further up to the often quoted $60 billion. This shameful study is a major basis for our crusade against the use of illicit drugs in industry.
This is the only study of its kind that has been made, and in this study, questions had been asked concerning other illegal drug use. Had the correlations used the findings that were made with cocaine or heroin use, rather than marijuana use, there would have been no lower average income at all. The only conclusion that could have been made (with cocaine or heroin, rather than with marijuana) was that there was no cost to business whatsoever, from drug abuse. The drug that had been used in the calculation was the only one that could have provided the numbers that were needed to fuel the drug war.
The drug problem may not be the size we are being told it is, but it is large enough for concern. What are some of its causes? There is a feeling of helplessness in much of our poor population, particularly among young Black and Hispanic males. There is a total absence of any sense of self-worth in most of the residents of our inner cities. There is extensive homelessness, and an increasing state of alienation between the middle-to-upper and the lowest classes. On one side, there is a growing attitude of, "I've got mine, and the hell with you," and on the other, "I've got nothing to lose, so screw you."
There is a shameful public health problem of massive proportions (AIDS, teen-age pregnancies, rising infant mortality and the abandonment of any serious effort to help those with debilitating mental illnesses). There are children who have no families, no food, no education, and no hope. There is near anarchy in the streets of our big cities, matched by a loss of community integrity in the rural areas. All of this is blamed on the "drug problem," although the use of drugs has nothing to do with it. Drug use is not the cause of any of these terrible problems. It may certainly be one of the results, but it is not the cause. Nonetheless, a major national effort is being made to convince the American people that winning the "War on Drugs" will indeed cure us of all ailments, if we would but relinquish a few more individual rights in the pursuit of victory.
This war cannot be won. And we will only lose more and more of our freedoms in a futile effort to win it. Our efforts must be directed towards the causes, not just the consequences of drug mis-use. But, in the meantime, things are going downhill at a rapid rate. People tell me that I am a defeatist to suggest the obvious answer, which is to legalize the use of drugs by adults who choose to use them.
I have been accused of giving the message that drug use is okay. Remove the laws, they say, and the nation will be plunged overnight into an orgy of unbridled drug use. I answer that we are already awash in illegal drugs, available to anyone who is able to pay, and their illegality has spawned a rash of criminal organizations and territorial blood-lettings, the likes of which have not been seen since the glory days of Prohibition.
Yes, it's possible that with the removal of drug laws a few timid Presbyterians will venture a snort of cocaine, but in the main, drug abuse will be no worse than it is now, and—after some initial experimentation—things will return to a natural balance. There is no "Middle America" sitting out there, ready to go Whoopie! with the repeal of the drug laws. The majority of the population will, however, benefit from the return of the criminal justice system's attention to theft, rape, and murder, the crimes against society for which we need prisons. Pot smoking, remember, is not intrinsically antisocial.
Let me ask each of you this simple question. What indicators would you accept as a definition of a police state, if it were to quietly materialize about you? I mean, a state that you could not tolerate. A state in which there is a decrease in drug use, but in which your behavior was increasingly being dictated by those in power?
Each of you, personally and privately, please draw an imaginary line in front of you, a line that indicates: up to here, okay, but beyond here, no way!
Let me suggest some thoughts to use as guides. What about a requirement for an observed urination into a plastic cup for drug analysis before getting a welfare check, or to qualify for or maintain a job at the local MacDonalds, or to allow your child enrollment in the public schools? Would any one of these convince you that our nation was in trouble?
More and more companies are requiring pre-employment urine testing, and insisting upon random analyses during working hours. Not just bus drivers and policemen, but furniture salesmen and grocery store clerks. Some local school districts are requiring random urine tests on 7th graders, but as of the present time they are still requesting the parent's permission. Recipients of public housing, of university loans, or of academic grants must give assurance that they will maintain a drug-free environment. Today, verbal assurance is acceptable, but what about tomorrow?
What about the daily shaving of the head and body so that no hair sample can be seized to provide evidence against you of past drug-use? There are increasingly strong moves to seize and assay hair samples in connection with legitimate arrests, as a potential source of incriminating evidence of past illegal drug use.
What if you had to make a formal request to the government, and get written permission, to take more than $300 out of the country for a week's vacation in Holland? Or $200? There used to be no limit, then the limit dropped to the current level of $10,000, but this number will certainly continue to drop as legislation becomes more severe with regard to the laundering of drug money.
A lot of what I have been talking about has to do with the "other guy," not you. It is your drug-using neighbor who will have to live in fear, not you. It is easy to dismiss these invasions of personal rights when they don't affect you directly. But let me ask you a not-quite-so-simple question, the answer to which is very important to you, indeed: where are your own personal limits?
To what extent do you feel that it is justifiable for someone else to control your personal behavior, if it contributes to the public's benefit? Let me presume that the idea of urine tests for cocaine use is okay with you. You probably don't use cocaine. Would you allow demands upon you for random urine tests for tobacco use? What about for alcohol use? The use of coffee?
To what extent would you allow the authorities into your private life? Let us presume that, having committed no crime, you would permit a policeman, who is visiting you officially, into your home without a warrant. But what about officials entering your home in your absence? Would you still proclaim, "I don't mind; I've got nothing to hide!"
I doubt that there are many of you who feel disturbed about the existence of a national computerized fingerprint file. But how about a national genetic marker file? What about police cards for domestic travel? How would you react to a law that says you must provide hair samples upon reentering the country from abroad? How would you feel about the automatic opening and reading of first class mail? Any and all of these things could be rationalized as being effective tools in the war against drugs. Where would you personally draw the line?
Each of us must carefully draw that line for himself or herself. It is an exquisitely personal decision, just where your stick is to enter the ground to mark that boundary. This far, and no further.
There is a second and equally important decision to be made.
Let's ease into it by recapitulation. The first requirement is to establish a line, up to which you will allow the erosions of liberties and freedoms, all in the good cause of winning the drug war.
The second requirement is to decide, ahead of time, exactly what you will do, if and when your personal line has been breached. The point at which you say, "This has gone too far. It is time for me to do such-and-such."
Decide what such-and-such really is. You must figure it out well beforehand. And beware. It is so easy to say, "Well, my line has been exceeded, but everything else seems benign and non-threatening, so perhaps I will relocate my line from right here to over there." This is the seductive rationalizing that cost millions of innocent people their lives under the Nazi occupation in Europe.
If you can move your line, then your line was not honestly positioned in the first place. Where is your line? And if your limits are exceeded, What will you do?
Stay continuously aware of where things are, politically, and in what direction they seem to be heading. Think your plans out ahead of time, while doing everything in your power to prevent further dismantling of what rights and freedoms are left the citizens of your country.
Do not give away your rights simply to make the police enforcement of criminal law easier. Yes, easier enforcement will catch more criminals, but it will become an increasing threat to you, as well. The policeman's task should not be easy; the founders of this country made that clear. A policeman's task is always difficult in a free country.
A society of free people will always have crime, violence and social disruption. It will never be completely safe. The alternative is a police state. A police state can give you safe streets, but only at the price of your human spirit.
In summary, remember that the accused must always be assumed innocent, and allowed his day in court. The curious citizen must always have open access to information about anything he wants, and should be able to learn whatever interests him, without having some other person's ideology superimposed on him during the course of his learning.
The maverick must be allowed to retreat to his private domain and live in any manner he finds rewarding, whether his neighbors would find it so or not. He should be free to sit and watch television all day long, if that's what he chooses to do. Or carry on interminable conversations with his cats. Or use a drug, if he chooses to do that. As long as he does not interfere with the freedom or well-being of any other person, he should be allowed to live as he wishes, and be left alone.
I believe that the phasing out of laws regarding drug use by adults, and an increase in the dissemination of truth about the nature and effects—positive and negative—of different drugs, the doing away with random urine testing and the perversion of justice that is its consequence, will certainly lead to smaller prison populations, and to the opportunity to use the "drug-war" funds for desperately needed social improvements and public health matters, such as homelessness, drug dependency and mental illness. And the energies of law-enforcement professionals can once again be directed towards crimes that deserve their skill and attention.
Our country might possibly become a more insecure place in some ways, but it will also be a healthier place, in body and spirit, with no further profit to be made on drugs by young men with guns on the streets of our cities. Those who abuse drugs will be able to find immediate help, instead of waiting for six months or more, in confusion and helplessness. And research in the area of drug effects and possible therapeutic use will come alive again in our centers of learning.
And we will once again be the free citizens of a free country, a model for the rest of the world.
Finally, I want to read an excerpt from a letter I received only yesterday, a letter sent by a young man who has found the psychedelics to be of great value to him in his growth as a writer:
Is it any wonder that laws prohibiting the use of psychoactive drugs have been traditionally ignored? The monstrous ego (or stupidity!) of a person or group of persons, to believe that they or anyone else have the right, or the jurisdiction, to police the inside of my body, or my mind!
It is, in fact, so monstrous a wrong that, were it not so sad indeed, tragic!—it might be humorous.
All societies must, it seems, have a structure of laws, of orderly rules and regulations. Only the most hard-core, fanatical anarchist would argue that point. But I, as a responsible, adult human being, will never concede the power, to anyone, to regulate my choice of what I put into my body, or where I go with my mind. From the skin inward is my jurisdiction, is it not? I choose what may or may not cross that border. Here I am the Customs Agent. I am the Coast Guard. I am the sole legal and spiritual Government of this territory, and only the laws I choose to enact within myself are applicable!!!
Now, were I to be guilty of invading or sabotaging that same territory in others, then the external law of the Nation has every right—indeed, the responsibility—to prosecute me in the agreed-upon manner.
But what I think? Where I focus my awareness? What biochemical reactions I choose to cause within the territorial boundaries of my own skin are not subject to the beliefs, morals, laws or preferences of any other person!
I am a sovereign state, and I feel that my borders are far more sacred than the politically drawn boundaries of any country.
To which I can only say amen. That's it. See you next week.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 22:58